Espionage isn't just restricted to the James Bond and John Le Carre figures of the world - we already saw industrial espionage taint the image of Formula 1 a couple of years ago with two Ferrari F1 employees being handed jail sentences in the matter. In a strange twist of events, this time Ferrari is at the losing end of some corporate espionage undertaken by rival manufacturer Aston Martin - although this time it wasn't in the F1 paddock.

Reports are circulating that the owners of a New York based car dealership, that specialized in selling Bentleys and Aston Martins, have been accused of conducting corporate espionage against rival Ferrari and Maserati dealers.

The charges relate to some illegal 'e-mail tapping' undertaken by the Bentley/Aston Martin dealer, during which they gained unauthorized access to a New York Ferrari dealer's email server around 2,500 times in a period of about 8 months last year.

Not only were the Bentley/Aston dealers reading the emails, they were also contacting customers of Ferrari that were negotiating with the Prancing Horse. In one case, a customer was attempting to purchase a Ferrari Enzo from the New York Ferrari dealership when the Bentley/Aston dealers contacted the customer offering help.

While the current charges may seem a bit more blasè than other espionage cases we've heard of, the maximum penalty if the Bentley/Aston dealer is found guilty could still amount to a whopping 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Ouch.